I decided to take the opportunity of getting up early to enjoy the silence of the loch and admire the views from the veranda. I took my coffee outside and stood watching the woodland birds devour the seed we had topped up the day before. There were blue, great and coal tits in abundance, nuthatches flew like bullets to peck at the peanuts and chaffinches waited patiently in the trees. It was calming to listen to the bird song and to watch the mist drift from the mountains before me.
After breakfast, David and I packed our rucksacks and headed towards Aberfoyle, and the Three Lochs Drive. A seven mile drive through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, stopping at a lochan and two lochs along the way. We decided to make a day of it!
The charge per car was £2 which was reasonable given that we spent over five hours driving, walking the trails and swimming in the lochs. Our first stop was at Lochan Reòidhte, the smallest of the three lochs, very picturesque and tranquil. We found water access besides a picnic bench, I took to the murky waters while David gave Buzz (our Mavic Mini) a stretch of its blades.
After a peaceful swim and a gentle saunter through a conifer plantation, we parked up at our second destination. The car park of Loch Drunkie, which had a toilet block. We walked along a path overlooking the loch which finally lead us towards the water’s edge. The fair weather we had that morning began to change and clouds started drifting in. Loch Drunkie, though a nice swim, was very muddy and I crawled out of the water covered in mud!
Our final destination of the drive was Loch Achray, we managed to find roadside parking and I waddled towards the beach with tow float and dry robe in hand. Access to the water was very shallow and I felt I could have walked for miles in knee high water. It was a rather disappointing swim to end the Three Lochs Drive.
Here’s the video compilation of all three swims:
Back at the cabin, we spent the evening wildlife spotting at the feeders. We spied a hungry red squirrel nibble at the peanuts and even a shy, nervous great spotted woodpecker visited.
We went to bed that night, tired but ready for another great day of touring the Trossachs the next day!
I wasn’t going to do a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins). I haven’t taken that many pictures this week, but I thought I would give it a try and see what I could come up with.
Among a bunch of flowers I bought this week, were some yellow roses. I thought how pretty the folds of petals looked.
Dan Brown’s Origin
Book I am reading:
I’m currently enjoying Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon offering, Origin. Though it’s punctuated with endless lectures on the many geographical and historical places in the novel. I am looking forward to finding out the true reason for Winston!
A quick update on my weeks mileage, which has been 33. Bringing my annual total to 643 miles.
This Saturday, David and I took a visit to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green. We went in the hope of getting (shade loving) rockery plants for around the pond, but ended up getting the wrong type (sun loving). However the mistake was a blessing as the phlox I bought ended up in the main yarden around David’s recently moved acer. In total we bought five plants, and all have now got new homes. 🙂
I also fell in love with some funky art for the yarden. These funny bee sculptures really do brighten the yarden up and at £3.99, weren’t too expensive either. 🙂
This Bank Holiday weekend has been unprecedented. The NW of England has been blessed with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures hitting 24°C. It truly has been a lovely Bank Holiday. On Sunday David and I took a hot Riley to a local nature reserve, Lunt Meadows. We visited Lunt last year as part of my 30 days Wild, so decided to go for another 4.5 mile walk around the reserve.
Christine and Riley
David and Riley
Lunt Nature Reserve
The sun was hot even at 10am! Peregrines soared before a cloudless blue sky, while greylag geese eyed us wearily. Bees buzzed among orchids and there were innumerous bird songs, most I could not identify. Speckled woods fluttered in nearby woodland. Orange tips, small tortoiseshells and peacocks, were all too fast for us to take a picture! Our leisurely morning walk flew by. Riley, though hot seemed to enjoy the different smells and sounds of the lovely nature reserve.
It’s the last full week of the Wildlife Trust’s,30 Days Wild. How fast has June flown?! Though it’s been a challenge this year. However, I think I’ve managed to make my week four, wild with diverse activities.
If, like me you are looking for inspiration on where to visit, why not try the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Finder app? With over 2000 nature reserves it’s a helpful aid to search for the wild!
Day Twenty-two: Thursday.
Plantlife have launched The Great British Wildflower Hunt. Their aim is to help more people identify wildflowers. They have downloadable identification sheets with helpful pictures and information on 20 popular wildflowers. You can do two counts. One in the city and the other in the countryside. I opted for the city. I was able to count a very respectable 13/20, though there is still a lot more I could learn about wildflowers.
Have you joined in this count? What were your highlights?
Day Twenty-three: Friday.
A week ago I planted some of my accumulation of freebie wildflower seeds. One pack I received with my 30 Days Wild mailing, the other I requested via Nestle Cereals. In just seven days my seeds have sprouted into seedlings. Hopefully they will flower come August!
Day Twenty-four: Saturday.
Today as we were visiting local pet shops I decided to visit a nature reserve we drive past every-time we travel from Liverpool to St. Helens. Stanley Bank is a nature reserve with an easy 1 mile walk. It’s part of the larger Sankey Valley Country Park. On a rather grey day there wasn’t many insects on the wing. There were however lots of wildflowers gracing the path as we followed a stream, watching a pied wagtail flit from bank to bank. There were lots of bird song from the canopy of trees above our heads. I could identify a blackbird, blue and great tits and wood pigeons. Here’s a few pictures I took of our short woodland walk.
Day Twenty-five: Sunday.
The plan for today was to visit Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby. I had planned the weekend around the weather forecast which said that Saturday was to be drizzly and Sunday just a grey day. However Saturday’s visit to St. Helens remained rainless while waking up on Sunday the rain fell like rods. Feeling a little miffed to say the least, I dawdled breakfast and then left for Lunt at 10am, when thankfully the rain started to ease up.
Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve
Only 40 minutes drive from Liverpool, Lunt Meadows is 77ha of land along the River Alt. It is a relatively new reserve being only opened to the public since 2015. The habitats include wetland and fens. During our visit we only saw a handful of other walkers, mainly with their dogs. David and I took a leisurely three hours to walk around the reserve.
The path – Lunt Meadows
8000 year old settlement
During excavations of Lunt Meadows archaeologists discovered a rare Mesolithic settlement by a group of nomadic stone-age hunter gatherers who lived in the area 8,000 years ago. It made me think of what their life must have been like and what they would think of the area today. If you are interested in what the archaeologists found, you can read more here.
While walking along the River Alt, we enjoyed watching swifts swoop past us. It made me feel dizzy watching them as they skimmed over the water. I later read that they live their life of the wing, even sleeping whilst flying! Butterflies we had disturbed fluttered before us. I was excited to see my first sighting of a large skipper! The air was filled with the chatter of warblers and the hum of bees. At one stage even small toads hopped across our path. We managed to pick one up and its padded feet felt cold and wet. Here’s just a small selection of pictures David and I took of our wonderful visit.
We will definitely visit Lunt Meadows again, hopefully in better weather!
Where is your favourite nature reserve?
Day Twenty-six: Monday.
Inspired by a photo featured on Thomas Heaton’s photography YouTube by Cora Iwanowsky, David set out in search of a garden snail to photograph. He searched our yarden, under overhanging plants and behind pots. After selecting the right model, he gathered stones from our fireplace and placed them in our fountain. He then positioned the model at the pinnacle of the display. He quickly took some photographs before putting the snail back in the yarden, none the wiser of what had just occurred. Here’s David’s attempt.
Snail on Stone by David Evans
David’s antics got me thinking about garden snails and that I knew nothing about them. So here’s a few facts about these abundant garden friend or foe.
Are classed as a terrestrial gastropod mollusk.
Are native to Europe.
Have a flat “muscular foot” that helps them move, aided by the release of mucus to reduce friction (hence snail trails).
Feasts on plant matter and debris.
Has nocturnal habits and rests during the day.
During hot periods they can retract into their shell and seal it shut, this induces a hibernation state and they can remain like this for several months.
Most hibernate during the winter.
Their fastest speed is only 1.3 centimeters per second.
They are hermaphrodite (both male and female) but need another snail for sperm transfer.
Can lay up to 100 eggs and up to six batches a year.
Are a food in France and Spain.
Who would have thought the common garden snail could be so fascinating! Their induced hibernation amazed me!
Day Twenty-seven: Tuesday.
The RSPB’s Wild Challenge, is an initiative to get children and families that little bit more wild. I think it is a great resource once 30 Days Wild has ended. There are three levels of challenges, bronze, silver and gold, with a list of activities to achieve before each level is reached and a certificate awarded. Having a wild sleep-out, learning about moths and going on a bug safari are some of the activities you can participate in.
Have you signed up for this challenge? What are your thoughts on the initiative?
Day Twenty-eight: Wednesday.
As we were visiting family this evening and didn’t have much time available for anything too wild! David and I decided to take Riley to Newsham Park. Riley having not been to this park before, was excited at all the new smells. He even chased and barked at the congregating seagulls. Indeed it was weather for seagulls as it had been raining all day. The field we let Riley run free was sodden with water and soon Riley and our feet were soaked too! The park boasts two lakes, a band stand and Newsham House which Queen Victoria visited during her reign. However, all we managed to visit on this dreary evening was the gardens.
Even though the weather was unsettled this week, we did manage to see lots of wildlife. Highlights for me was visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and seeing that my wildflower seeds have sprouted.
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?
Bowscale Tarn was the clear winner of my public vote on where my first swim of 2017 should be. Despite that accolade finally going to Crummock Water, I decided Bowscale would be my second!
As featured in William Wordsworth’s 1888, Song, at the Feast of Brougham Castle. Folklore states that Bowscale Tarn is home to two immortal fish, one with the gift of speech. With the weather forecasting sunshine and temperatures reaching the late 20°C’s, there was nothing else for it but to go in search of these immortal fish!
We got to the hamlet of Bowscale at 9.30am after a two hour drive up the M6 to Penrith and then the A66 to Mungrisedale. As we seem to be visiting the area a lot recently, we didn’t even need the help of the SatNav!
There are only a few cottages in Bowscale and it was by these cottages that we parked the car, parking was free! As the road bends right, there is a public bridleway sign pointing towards the tarn. The path was established by the Victorians who would flock to Bowscale Tarn much more than people do now. The path was very quiet and we only saw one other person with his two dogs.
The walk to the tarn took one hour. The pathway was well defined, gravelly underfoot but there was no worry of getting lost! The sun was blazing hot, even at 10am! The sparkling blue of Bowscale Tarn appeared like a mirage, it was a welcome sight!
A good few hours was spent at Bowscale, picnicking and sunbathing, before sliding my sun kissed body into the cool waters of the tarn. I found the shallows to be very muddy and my feet easily got sucked down into the vegetation. It was a feeling I did not like!
Occasionally a mean wind wiped over the tarn and the water glistened like there were a myriad of tiny stars dancing on the surface. The silence of the place was only broken by the chatter of pipits nesting in the heath-land.
And of the immortal fish? I never seen head nor tail of them, other than wrestling with a rubber trout I had brought along for the fun of being silly!
Have you visited Bowscale Tarn? Been lucky enough to see the immortal fish? I’d love to hear of your stories attached to this place.
Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.
Monday and Tuesday:
As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! 🙂
One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p
Many Borage seedlings
I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!
We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!
Wool Carder Bee
I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!
Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!
I later found out that Pearl was found unconscious and Mum hastily took her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!
On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!
As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee on David’s hand
I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar, (as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!
On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!
I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for £1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!
Fat cake I made for the birds
In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!
The setting sun
David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.
Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee
Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!
I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.
The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!
The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! 😀 I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! 😀
I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!
Tired Mason Bee
For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.
Tbsp Olive Oil
Cloves Garlic, Minced
Large Onion, Chopped
Medium Carrot, Chopped
Pepper de-seeded and chopped
Celery Stalks, Chopped
Chilli de-seeded and chopped
1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
50g-100g Pearl Barley
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with bread…
The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!
Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!
Wholemeal Turkish Bread
500g of wholemeal flour
1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
350ml of warm water
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 egg yolk
1 tbs olive oil
Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 230°C.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:
Starlings and their babies
House Sparrows and their young!
Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!
David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get the bug off the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.
Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!
As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! 😀